It can be hard to find drinks without sugar or artificial sweeteners to have with a family dinner if you want a break from plain water.  

Sugar-free sodas might not be the best switch from a regular soda, as the replacements for sugar can be questionable. Although acesulfame, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and neotame are FDA approved artificial sweeteners, it’s believed that 0-calorie sugar-free soft drinks can still be a cause of obesity because they can trick the brain into not associating sweetness with calories, and people may compensate for the zero-calories and sugars later on by snacking on unhealthy foods.

Soda can be a treat every now and then, but the next best drinks to water at dinner time, are the ones with natural ingredients. Not only are these five drinks low in calories and added sugars, but they also offer nutritional benefits!

Sparkling Water

glass of sparkling water with ice healthy alternative to soda

Sparkling water is made by dissolving carbon dioxide gas into water that’s under pressure, which is what causes it to become fizzy. Sparkling water is one of the healthiest alternatives to soft drinks because it’s just as hydrating as a regular cup of water. Make sure to read the ingredients first as many brands have added sugars and flavors. Plain sparkling water is one of the easiest sources of no-sugar drinks.

Plain sparkling water is one of the healthiest soft drinks. If it tastes too bland then you can add a splash of fruit juice or infuse it with flavors such as lemon, lime, mint, or even add frozen berries to make it one of the best tasting sugar-free drinks.

Mineral water, seltzer water are among the least processed fizzy waters, but if you’re buying a flavored version check the ingredients for added ingredients and hidden calories.

Homemade Lemonade

glasses of lemonade, healthy alternative to soda

Lemonade is an easy way to add more vitamins and minerals to your dinner. Although lemonade can be bought in most stores, nothing beats a homemade fresh glass of lemon juice. Homemade foods and drinks are often the healthiest options because they don’t need preservatives, and you can control what goes into it. Standard lemonade recipes suggest a ratio of one quarter lemon juice to three-quarters water, as well as sugar and a pinch of salt.

Lemons are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Lemonade is one of the best drinks for family dinner because it helps with digestion and indigestion. Although you might think that something as acidic as lemons would cause heartburn, the large amount of water in lemonade can be alkalizing.

You can add honey to your lemonade instead of table sugar. As honey is sweeter than sugar, you need to use less of it than sugar, but it actually has a lower Glycemic Index than table sugar, which means it won’t cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. It does contain more calories than sugar, but given that it’s sweeter you end up using less honey than you would table sugar.

Sugar alcohols like erythritol and mannitol contain less sugar and calories than table sugar, and can also be used to sweeten lemonade. They’re called sugar alcohol because they have a similar chemical structure to sugar and alcohol, but are not alcoholic. Some people get an upset stomach after eating something with sugar alcohol, but they can be enjoyed in moderation.

Lemonade can also be one of the healthiest alternatives to soft drinks by adding bicarbonate of soda and creating fizzy lemonade, or using sparkling water instead of plain water.

Fruity iced tea

pitcher of fruity iced tea, healthy alternative to soda

Fruity iced tea can be a refreshing addition to your meals. It can be a great replacement for sugary fruit juices, soft drinks, and pre-made iced tea drinks like Snapple which have a lot of added sugar.

Iced tea can be made with a base of any tea, but if you’re looking for a drink for family dinner the kids will like, fruity teas like rooibos and hibiscus may be good choices. These herbal teas also have health benefits in their own right. Rooibos tea is a good source of antioxidants while hibiscus has iron and vitamin C.

Iced tea can be made by brewing a big batch of tea as normal, adding your fruit of choice and cooling it down in the fridge overnight and then adding ice when serving. You should take the tea bags out after it’s brewed as some teas start to taste funny if the tea bag is left in. Some good iced tea combos are; strawberry and basil, blackberry and mint, and peach iced tea.

Adding mint leaves will also help enhance this family dinner drink as it soothes the stomach which can ease indigestion, and the smell can activate glands that secrete digestive enzymes to help digestion.

Like lemonade, you can add honey instead of sugar if you don’t want to trigger a sugar rush.

Kombucha

jars of kombucha, healthy alternative to soda

Kombucha is a drink made from green or black tea, yeast, bacteria, and sugar. The research into the health benefits of kombucha us still limited, but it is a source of probiotics which can help with constipation, bloating, and gastrointestinal issues by helping facilitate good gut bacteria. The bacteria and yeast are also a source of vitamin B1, B6, and B12  as well as vitamin C.

It’s also a great way to reap the benefits of black or green tea in a cool refreshing drink. Both black tea and green tea are good sources of antioxidants. Black tea kombucha can also aid the probiotics in the bacteria as the polyphenols in the tea can promote good bacteria while slowing down the spread of bad bacteria. Green tea kombucha can speed up your metabolism and green tea is a better source of antioxidants than black tea.

Make sure to pick up a low-sugar brand if you can’t make it yourself.

A Glass of milk

pitcher and a glass of milk, healthy alternative to soda

A glass of milk is a simple but healthy drink for family dinners.

Milk can balance out the nutritional breakdown in a meal if it’s something low in protein and calcium. It’s also a good source of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin A. For kids with a small appetite, milk can be a way to get more calories into their meal if you suspect they won’t finish it.

Milk is also the best thing to cool down with after a spicy meal. Chili burns because it has capsaicin which binds with a receptor in the tongue, but as a fat-soluble compound, the milk fat can help to ease the burning sensation.

Although milk is not one of the no-sugar drinks on this list, sugar is needed in our diets, but the best source is natural sugars. Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk, and milk almost never has any added sugar, which is what makes it a healthier option at dinner than soda.

The Bottom Line

These five healthy alternatives to soft drinks can liven up dinner time, without compromising your family’s health. Although water is always the best source of hydration, these low sugar soft drinks, and sugar-free drinks are a better choice than soda.